Our amazing kids, December 2010, from left to right: Hope, Tess, Anne, Christian, Daniel, and James
2010 was the toughest year of my life. It was a great one, too; highlights include our trip to London in August and the realization of my birthday goal in November.* But a lot of last year was a struggle.
I can’t complain; I have my health, my family, my faith, excellent friends, and so many comforts and privileges. And I made it through! The year didn’t kill me, so it must have made me stronger, right?
I didn’t experience as much media last year as I usually do, but here’s what I enjoyed the most.
Best Movies I Saw
1. True Grit
3. Robin Hood
4. Toy Story 3
5. Harry Potter 7.1
Best Songs I Downloaded
1. “Closer to the Sun,” by Slightly Stoopid
2. “Harlem River Blues,” by Justin Townes Earle
3. “Rise Like Smoke,” by Cypress Hill
4. “Tennessee Me,” by The Secret Sisters
5. “You! Me! Dancing!” by Los Campesinos!
Best Books I Read (or Re-read)
1. Hold On To Your Kids, by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Maté
2. The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield
3. A Course in Weight Loss, by Marianne Williamson
4. The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls
5. Misery, by Stephen King
6. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, by Anne Brontë
7. The Cabinet of Wonders, by Marie Rutkowski
8. Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall
9. In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, by Gabor Maté
10. Mr. Monster, by Dan Wells
It was the year of non-fiction! I've never had more than half of my top ten list be non-fiction before. The top three rank right under the level of scripture for me, though, and I refer back to them often. Highly recommended.
Yarn of the Year: Sunflower Yarns Franconia in the May Flowers colorway
I knit more than ever last year (knitting is an excellent stress-reliever for me), and I hope to build on that momentum. Sunflower Yarns beat out other excellent contenders for YotY, including The Sanguine Gryphon and Fiber Optic. Yarns I look foward to using this year include those by madelinetosh, Three Irish Girls, and Wollmeise.
Best Meals I Ate
1. Winvian, Morris, Connecticut
2. Charingworth Manor, Chipping Campden, England
3. db Bistro Moderne, New York, New York
4. Byron Burger, London, England
5. Robert, New York, New York
6. Picnic lunch, Hampton Court Palace, England
7. Livebait, London, England
8. Blue, Liverpool, England
9. Picnic lunch, Arundel Castle, England
10. Memphis Mae’s, Croton-on-Hudson, New York
Yes, Virginia, there is great food to be had in England. It's one reason I'd go back in a heartbeat.
* My birthday goal: I decided back in May that I wanted to run 4.4 miles in 44 minutes on my 44th birthday, which was November 4th. I was copying my dear friend Shauna, who had done the same on her birthday.
There was only one obstacle in my path: I wasn’t a runner. I hated to run. I had never run even a mile without stopping. Not. Ever. Why I would choose such a goal boggles my mind even now.
My homegal Anne (remember Brillig?) told me about the Couch-to-5K program, and she and our bosom buddy Jana and I signed up and got going. It’s a great program; you start very small and build on tiny, incremental successes over the course of nine weeks. On July 19th, I ran 5K without stopping to walk once.
After that, my awesome sister Angie, who is a veteran marathoner and the fittest person I know, made me a training schedule. I stuck to it religiously; I believe that from May to November (not counting our time in England in August), I only missed one running session.
To do so, I had to make room in my life. I got up at 5:15 a.m. I made the kids’ lunches the night before each school day. I made sure I was in bed by 10:00 every night. I faithfully took my vitamins and supplements. And I made new running music mixes often—the music got me through some very tough moments, I can tell you.
Right up until my birthday, I didn’t know whether I’d be able to attain my goal. I prayed; I visualized; I told all of my friends what I was doing so that I could marshal sheer pride if all else failed.
And I made it. Afterward, I laughed and cried and felt a little like throwing up; I still can’t believe I did it. Even more incredibly, over the course of my training, I learned to hate running less (and now that I’ve switched to running in these, I actually like running). The side benefit? I lost 20 pounds. Apparently, burning 500-800 calories several times a week for six months will do that to you.
I’m still running, alternating it with rowing on my Concept 2 rower, which I've loved for years. I don’t know whether I’ll ever take running to “the next level”; at this point in my life, I just don’t have the time.
This last part may sound like a cliché, but clichés exist for a reason. I learned that, with planning, consistency, the support of good friends, and a fair amount of grit, I can do things that I would have thought were impossible. And gaining the gift of that knowledge during the hardest year of my life came in very, very handy.
2011? Bring it on!